Recognizing Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month 

Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month

“We had a student on the autism spectrum having his bar mitzvah. I worked very closely with him and his mother to prepare him for his special day. When it came time for the final rehearsal, I wanted him to experience standing on the bimah in front of an audience, so I put out a call to any staff in the building to come by if they could. As you can imagine, the end of the workday isn’t a time most people want to stick around the office, but everyone came out and shared in the moment. That’s the WHC I know and love.”

— Senior Cantor Susan Bortnick

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAAIM), and we are proud of the diversity within our membership, and the many ways we have made our offerings—whether worship or programming, in-person or virtual—accessible to all. We have hosted Inclusion Shabbats and had ASL interpreters and live captioning for virtual events.

Our Early Childhood Centers (ECC) and Religious School celebrate the uniqueness of each child. Among our guiding philosophies is the idea that each child is created in the image of God. We work with each child and family individually to establish a trusting and open relationship. We welcome all students, regardless of background, ability, or any difference at all. We work with children and parents to address questions about development, offering guidance on accommodations or interventions. We do all we can to support each child’s ability to thrive within our schools. When needed, we provide a variety of support systems to children. These include implementing an Individual Education Plan (IEP) created in partnership with experts; offering a buddy, aid, or shadow when beneficial; creating specific classes that enable a group of children to thrive; and more! Open communication between families and our schools is key to each child’s success.

“WHC created a classroom where all people can be educated in Judaism.”

“It’s really important for kids to be connected to the Jewish community, and that can be especially hard when there’s a disability involved,” one parent said. “WHC created a classroom where all people can be educated in Judaism.”

She continued, “It’s an open, inclusive place. And to get more kids included, it’s not a one-size-fits-all program.” The Religious School’s Special Education class has a student/teacher ratio of 1:1 and is where children have a meaningful and developmentally appropriate education.

Our Upper School and Confirmation also work closely with families to make our programs accessible to students at a level that is right for them. We feel such pride in students with differing abilities or needs who continue through Confirmation. Accommodations we make enable those students to take part in retreats, Confirmation’s New York City trip, and other activities.

Ira Miller, WHC Director of Informal Education said, “It’s powerful for those students—and the entire class—to share these experiences together. Watching a group of teens create a positive, welcoming environment for a peer who may not have expected they could be part of this community, let alone confirmed, is truly something special.”

As we head toward welcoming each other back to Temple and JBSC, let’s continue including anyone who wants to come together.

If you would like to inquire about closed captioning or other accommodation, please contact Rich Gordon at least one week in advance of the service, program, or event.